Over breakfast with New York Times reporter Susan Dominus, Chancellor Joel Klein waxed enthusiastic over the recent book of Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb, Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of Education. According to Klein, this book shows how, “through distance learning and other individualized teaching approaches, we may be able to reduce the need in the future for teachers’ overall numbers and increase their pay.”
One might use online courses to supplement existing curricula. But it’s hard to see how they could replace teachers. What would count as an absence, and what would be done about chronic absences? How many students would drop out of contact and slip through the cracks? What would keep children from “learning” on the sofa with the TV on?
Nor would it be fair to use distance learning for the top students. They, too, need teachers in their daily lives. Intellectual advancement and self-sufficiency are not one and the same. Moreover, young people spend so much time online with their peers that they need a counterbalance: adults they must face, places where they must be.
There is no getting around it. Teachers are needed.